Soggy Dressage and Other Frustrations

Dino is displeased with the weather.

My training plan for the week is getting a bit turned on it's head, but Dino and I are trying to go with the flow.

Originally I was planning to give him Monday off, school cross country on Tuesday, and have a dressage ride on Wednesday. Monday's day off went without a hitch and we got some much-needed rain... which continued well into Tuesday's planned outing. So my event buddy and I decided to reschedule for Wednesday when the weather was supposed to be much better. Then her schedule for Wednesday evening got all crazy, and I found myself unsuccessfully scrambling to find someone to go with me, because safety. No XC school for us this week.

I put on my Denny Emerson pants Tuesday afternoon and decided to #bossmareup and have a dressage school in the rain. It was fairly warm out, and my barn owner lent me a sweet waterproof duster to ride in, so I was good to go!

Dino was Not Having It with the weather. His buddies were all chillin' without him, I was making him go work in the RAIN, and he was pretty sure that a swamp monster was about to appear from behind every tree. He was on high alert on the walk down to our flatwork field and even tried to spin around and go home once.

Um, no, pony. This is not how things work.

We're eventers now. We ride in the rain. We're very serious.
Eventually we got down to the field and after chasing off some geese we got to work. Dino was so uppity; he was snorting all over the place like a fire breathing dragon and scooting off in every direction, and staring hard into the woods expecting The Creature From The Black Lagoon to appear. The name of the game became transitions, circles, and any other kind of change in direction or gait or body position I could think of to get him focused and relaxed.

He was a little fussy about balancing back and going into the contact at first, but after some schooling Dino started giving me some super nice work. I also REALLY started to understand what my trainer meant when she told me to "push the bit forward" in Dino's mouth. The more I released and "gave" him the bit, the more soft and balanced he became and the less I had to do to keep him round and flowing forward.

It was really neat! A few times Dino would angrily flip his nose up during a downward transition, but when I tried again using LESS hand and MORE seat, he was beautifully round through the whole thing. I was able to keep my hands in a little 'box' right in front of the saddle, and Dino carried himself like a proper dressage pony. I even got a killer trot lengthening down the whole field and it was awesome to feel the energy cycling from my pony's hind legs over his back into my hand. Those dressage diagrams totally make sense now!

We got really nice work done at all three gaits, though the right lead canter is proving to be a sticking point for us lately. The right lead used to be so good; now the left lead is brilliant and the right lead is stinky! Always something to improve.

Bonus Turtle!
Yesterday I decided to practice our dressage test, since I'd ridden Intro C exactly one time and cross-country schooling was not gonna happen. It ended up being a tough, tough ride.

Dino was super heavy in my hand again like he was last week, wanting to rush forward and lean on my hands instead of sitting down on his haunches and being light in front. I know the area where our dressage ring is set up is sloped kind of funny and it's definitely more physically challenging for him to work in there, but MAN he was heavy, especially to the right. I warmed up and ran through the test once, but Dino was so on the forehand that everything about the test was sloppy. I switched gears and just schooled him, throwing in leg yields, shoulder-in, serpentines, and lots of circles and transitions to try and get him working correctly. It was a struggle bus, but I felt glimpses of straightness and balance here and there, so I kept going. I dropped my stirrups to wrap my leg around him better, I really tried to focus on my own body position to make sure I wasn't giving mixed signals, and I just kept working, trying to give Dino the bit when he was where I wanted him to be.

FINALLY, after what seemed like forever, I was riding a sitting trot and all of a sudden it felt like Dino's body just "snapped" into position. I felt that "cycle of energy" feeling again and his whole back stretched out and up, I felt like he was holding my hand instead of leaning on it, and his shoulders started to come up. I rolled with it and did the test one more time - sitting all of the trot work so as not to mess anything up!

It was definitely the best run through of the day! The canter work was a little sketchy in the roundness department, but the transitions were spot-on accurate and he "snapped" back to roundness and balance in the trot work. Dino's free walk was AMAZING with so much swing and stretch through his whole body, and while the halts weren't quite square, I was pretty darn happy with them. After that we were both pretty much totally wiped out.

I feel like even though I know exactly the feel I'm going for, I'm still learning what the right amount of contact is to get Dino working well. It seems like what "works" changes every few weeks, and I'm struggling to find the happy medium in contact between giving away too much rein and starting a tug-of-war battle with my pony. I also wonder if his right hind is feeling the intense focus on bending and weighting that leg that I've been implementing lately.

Dressage is hard.


  1. I love that "snap" feeling! And like you, I am still trying to figure out how to get it when I want it. Way to be badass eventers!

  2. Love that you just keep riding through his stuff and eventually make headway.

  3. this rain is kinda such a bummer - but i keep telling myself it'll make for perfect footing this sunday. silver linings, right? nice job sticking with him through the school to end on such a fantastic note! maybe the fact that his recipe for what works changes all the time means that he's just building more and more strength so the weak link keeps shifting. not really a bad thing!

  4. Dressage is very hard. I wish I could have gone xc schooling with you!

  5. Great progress! My horse has temper tantrums about the rain, and I admit.. I just give up :)

  6. DRESSAGE IS HARD. I totally feel you.

    It's pretty awesome that you got to feel Dino really get round into the contact and feel such a difference. I often feel that Murray works slowly into roundness so it's hard for me to feel the difference from one moment to the next.

    I wonder if there's a trend to Dino's progressing desires regarding contact and softness and lightness? My friend's horse used to be SUPER heavy in the hands and just could not get light, and over the years he's transitioned into a horse you ride so much more off the seat. It's very fascinating. So perhaps as Dino is starting to get the hang of things he's wanting different levels of contact/requests/etc.?

  7. The rain sucks when you don't have an indoor but we SO, so needed it. I might finally get some spring grass where Digby is! (Maybe haha)

    Glad to hear the EuroPony has been doing well though! Let me know when you're free in the evening and I can come take photos :D

  8. Sounds like you made an awesome day! Everytime I ride my tests I can never get that cycle of energy movement. Drives me crazy. We school fine and then as soon as we go into a test mode he freaks out

  9. Henry is not a fan of the rain in his ears.

    Swamp monsters are for real yo! lol


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